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  • TwinsTube: Keeping Kirby Puckett


    Tom Froemming

    Kirby Puckett became a free agent after the 1992 season, and a Minnesota reunion wasn’t a foregone conclusion. So when his five-year, $30 million contract with the Twins was announced, Minnesota baseball fans had (yet another) reason to celebrate.

    Below is a half-hour segment from KSTP, hosted by Joe Schmidt, titled Keeping Kirby Puckett.

     

    The Puckett feature picks up at around the 50-second mark. Commercials were not edited out of this video, but that may be more of a feature than a flaw in this case. This YouTube channel, tcmedianow, has loads of old TV news segments like this.

     

    Included in the video are reactions from Kent Hrbek, Twins fans at Joe Senser’s and a nice look back at his career up to that point that includes all of his “greatest hits.”

     

    Sidenote: Looking back at this really hammers home how much consistency there's been with the sports media in the Twin Cities. Along with Schmidt, there’s also an appearance from Patrick Ruesse. Speaking of which, here’s wishing Sid Hartman a very happy 100th birthday. Wow.

     

    Anyway, I guess we’ll stick with the theme of “Keeping Kirby Puckett” because there are so many things as Twins fans we want to keep and hold dearly in regard to Kirby, but plenty others we’d rather not.

     

    Watching any coverage of Puckett now, with the benefit of hindsight, always results in a few cringes. The revelations regarding his conduct off the field, particularly his relationships and conduct toward women, were utterly shocking. That was all well-documented in George Dohrmann’s The Rise and Fall of Kirby Puckett for Sports Illustrated back in 2003.

     

    I don’t want to dive too deeply into that topic, maybe another time, but it’s interesting to note that in this video there’s both a mention of Kirby being voted the classiest player in all of baseball and an interview where he rejects the idea that he should be looked up to as a hero.

     

    It’s difficult for me to touch on Puckett without things getting a little heavy, but let’s finish with something to lighten up the mood. Here’s a fun video of some of his teammates and coaches questioning the authenticity of his Starting Lineup figure:

     

     

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    I recall hearing a story told recently (possibly from Reusse) about Puckett. Apparently, he was tearing the cover off the ball in the spring before he had his eye issue. Better than ever. The team has brought in Molitor, and it appeared as though Puckett was poised to drive him in about 150 times that year.

     

    I remember it like it was yesterday, though I was relatively young at the time. What I never knew was how well he was performing right up until the day he woke up and couldn’t see.

     

    Despite all of that, the man is a legend. On the short list of most entertaining players to watch in the history of the game, IMO.

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    I recall hearing a story told recently (possibly from Reusse) about Puckett. Apparently, he was tearing the cover off the ball in the spring before he had his eye issue. Better than ever. The team has brought in Molitor, and it appeared as though Puckett was poised to drive him in about 150 times that year.

    I remember it like it was yesterday, though I was relatively young at the time. What I never knew was how well he was performing right up until the day he woke up and couldn’t see.

    Despite all of that, the man is a legend. On the short list of most entertaining players to watch in the history of the game, IMO.

     

    Kirby was going to get to bat cleanup that year.  Considering Molitor and Knoblauch both batted .346 and Cordova drove in 111 runs knocking them in, Kirby probably gets at least 130 if he played.  IIRC he had two hits off Greg Maddux in his final spring game.   Maybe they play .500 ball and the franchise gets turned around a bit earlier than 2001.

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    The new novel “The Cactus League“ by Emily Nemens has a small fictionalized tie-in to this moment in Twins history (not a spoiler). Was fun to stumble upon it in the book last week and remember clearly being excited about keeping Puck in Minnesota back in high school, reading about it in the Strib. Thanks for digging up the videos.

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    Before he moved to Arizona before his death, Kirby lived in my neighborhood.   Lets just say that he looked like that fat man image in the video.  I think those were hard times for Kirby and you could see that his health was deteriorating.  

     

    Hard to watch any of this without tears because he was really a once in a lifetime type of sports personality.   

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